Witchcraft is a constitutionally protected religion in South Africa

Recently published articles concerning the revision of Canada’s Criminal Code on the prohibition of Witchcraft in that country has elicited numerous calls by South African Witches to legalise Witchcraft in South Africa.

Many Pagans and Witches remain under the impression that the practice of Witchcraft as a religion or religious belief system is illegal in South Africa. It is not!

With the passage of South Africa’s first democratic Constitution in 2006, including a Bill of Rights (Chapter Two of the Constitution – see below) and its constitutional guarantee of the right to equality and freedom of religion and belief for all citizens, any and all existing legislation inconsistent with the Constitution *automatically* became invalid (unconstitutional) subject to Parliamentary review. Effectively, this means that the 1957 Witchcraft Suppression Act, which prohibited, a) professing knowledge of witchcraft, b) the practice of witchcraft and c) the use of divination, effectively became invalid and unconstitutional as of 2006.

The South African Law Reform Commission confirmed this as fact, in relation to SAPRA’s February 2007 appeal for a review and the repeal of the Witchcraft Suppression Act, when it declared in 2016 that said Act was, in respect of its prohibition of having knowledge of or practicing witchcraft, unconstitutional, and that South African Witches have the legal right to practice their religion without interference by the state.

NOTE: As of 2006, Witchcraft has been a legally protected religious belief system in South Africa.

It must however be remembered that whilst the law protects the right of Witches to practice their faith, ordinary citizens do not always obey the law in respect of equality. In practice, many Witches in South Africa do continue to experience discrimination.

Since 2004 SAPRA has fulfilled several important functions in line with its constitutional mandate, namely, to promote the guaranteed liberties and freedoms enshrined for all South African Pagans (including Witches, whether Pagans or not) in the Bill of Rights, and assist South African Pagans and Witches, whose constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms have been infringed due to unfair discrimination, to obtain appropriate redress.

If you are a Pagan or a Witch, have personally experienced prejudice or discrimination as a direct result of your religious choice or affiliation, and seek assistance and redress, contact the Chief Executive Officer at: info@paganrightsalliance.org

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Chapter Two – Bill of Rights
Constitution of the Republic of South Africa

The following sections and provisions of the Bill of Rights apply:

9 Equality
(1) Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
(2) Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms. To promote the achievement of equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken.
(3) The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.
(4) No person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds in terms of subsection (3). National legislation must be enacted to prevent or prohibit unfair discrimination.
(5) Discrimination on one or more of the grounds listed in subsection (3) is unfair unless it is established that the discrimination is fair.

10 Human dignity
Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.

15 Freedom of religion, belief and opinion
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.
(2) Religious observances may be conducted at state or state-aided institutions,
provided that-
(a) those observances follow rules made by the appropriate public authorities;
(b) they are conducted on an equitable basis; and
(c) attendance at them is free and voluntary.

16 Freedom of expression
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes-
(a) freedom of the press and other media;
(b) freedom to receive or impart information or ideas;
(c) freedom of artistic creativity; and
(d) academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.
(2) The right in subsection (1) does not extend to-
(a) propaganda for war;
(b) incitement of imminent violence; or
(c) advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.

18 Freedom of association
Everyone has the right to freedom of association.

31 Cultural, religious and linguistic communities
(1) Persons belonging to a cultural, religious or linguistic community may not be denied the right, with other members of that community-
(a) to enjoy their culture, practice their religion and use their language; and
(b) to form, join and maintain cultural, religious and linguistic associations and other organs of civil society.
(2) The rights in subsection (1) may not be exercised in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights.

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SAPRA ‘Your Rights’ Resource